if I listened

graffiti: a black bird in a blue window, with the word 'listen' pushing out overheadHappy Tuesday! It’s quiet and grey here on the left side of the Bay (well, when facing Oakland — but who isn’t facing Oakland?) — how is it where you are? The birds are waking slowly; I think they’re not quite convinced of daytime yet.

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You know what’s coming up next around Writing Ourselves Whole, right? Everything kicks off the second full week of June: our 8 week workshops (Write Whole for women survivors of sexual violence — this one’s about fully registered — and Declaring Our Erotic, open to LGBT/SGL/queer folks of all genders) and the next Writing the Flood, on June 18! Got some resolutions for Pride month  around being truer to your fierce, creative self? Come join us!

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This morning I’m thinking about listening — and, of course, puppies. I’m learning to listen to Sophie, just like she’s learning to listen to me. We are practicing hearing each other, testing out what happens when we do. She communicates differently from other dogs that I’ve lived with, at least so far. There’s a way in which she’s been both herself and an instantiation of the other dogs in my life, all at the same time, since she’s been living with us — and slowly, as I get to know her better, as she herself becomes more known to me, that sense of being a representation or a placeholder for another animal begins to fade. I can hear her better for herself, just as she is, rather than listening for how my other dogs used to communicate with me. This is a moment to moment practice, and it’s both exhausting and wonderful.

Don’t we have to do this all the time, with animals, yes, but with people, too? You remind me of someone I used to know, and so it takes me awhile to quit expecting you to act and sound like them; it takes me awhile to really listen to you: to how you speak, to how you act, to how your youness manifests in the world.

And then, of course, there’s the learning, the every-day practice, of learning to listen to self — and the work required to become gentle enough to say yes to deep self longings.

This weekend, at the Reclaiming Our Erotic Story workshop, we did this exercise: Begin writing from the phrase, “If I listened to my body…”

And if you want to take some time with this one this morning, 10 or 15 minutes, remember to change up those pronouns if that makes the prompt more interesting for you: if he listened to his body, if she listened to hers, if you listened to her body, etc…

This was my response during the write:

If I listened to my body, this wreckage would begin to pool away, would slim first heavy then thinning from my shoulders, all the iron bars would falter, then break — if I listened. If I stepped aside, traded ears for armor, if I took the stories in. If I let you ask in all your nighttime longing and I shut aside the worry, the need to sleep or work, the heavy heartbreak or old aches that every relationship accumulates like jewelry, if I closed those thoughts into a warm room with iced tea and good conversation, if I just listened to the quick thud of my heart in my belly, the soft pearling beginning beneath and between, would yes slip more easily from my lips? If I could nuance my way through old panic and just let the body live its now, just here have your skin and mine speaking in filamented blessings, if yes were not tangled in a thicket of terrible history, if I weren’t still so glossed by the anvil glamour of no, would we ride hard and fast into more muscle-achey mornings, would I have more days when I had to keep a scarf around my neck at work?

If I listened, there would be more massage and dance — and don’t I slip into the passive voice there — because who would put on the tall shoes and take those steps on behalf  of this one brave and resilient body, whose scars lie invisible and brazen in her underbelly and along her breasts?  This body, who wrestles deep with every angry wind, this tenacious tired body who has been strung up like a live wire on red velvet alert for so many years and now would just like to recede into something like mo(u)rning and good rest, into something like day — this body, that carries pleasure in her cervices like it belongs there, this body with the taste of chocolate and bitter greens between the teeth, and the taste of salt and moon everywhere else, this body with its tensions and knots, this body is screaming       is howling        just wants me to put down my book and listen, like a little sister: play with me. And what keeps me from saying yes? What breaks open like a geode when I do — glittery, dusty, unfathomably faceted, and unable to close up again?

Thanks for all the times you keep listening, to the hard stuff inside and even, yes, to the easy, gorgeous, fun stuff. Thanks for your strong, knowing words.